Today In History, 1977: Gays Zap Straight Bar Over “Fairies Swatter” Sign

Jim Burroway

July 28th, 2016

Harry’s Back East was a popular gay bar in New York’s Upper East Side. Next door to Harry’s was Geordie’s, a popular straight bar which didn’t take kindly to its neighbors. Hanging right there behind the middle of Geordie’s bar was a large, three-foot-long ax, with an elaborately-designed sign hanging from it reading “FAIRY SWATTER.”

When the Gay Activists Alliance learned about the sign, they sent a delegation to meet with Geordie’s owner to request the sign’s removal. The owner protested that he wasn’t bigoted, that some of his best friends were gay, and blah blah blah. He claimed, with a reportedly straight face, that the sign and ax had nothing to do with gay people. It had something to do with leprechauns or something. The GAA pointed out that Geordie’s customers might not see the sign the same way the owner claimed to see it, and instead take it as an invitation to violence if any stray gay patrons were found inside of Geordie’s. Remember, this was in 1977, when the Anita Bryant-inspired anti-gay backlash (Jun 7) had already inspired at least one murder in San Francisco (Jun 22). The GAA insisted that one way or another, the sign was coming down. According to one former GAA member:

Geordie’s owner got belligerent and made the mistake of belittling GAA’s ability to deliver on the guarantee that the ax/swatter sign would come down. “Go ahead, throw a picket line up in front if you want to! It won’t change anything,” he taunted. He raised his voice: “You can picket till you’re blue in the face. The ax and sign stay up. Nothing you do will make me take it down! It will never come down! Never!” With that, he walked away ending the discussion, and the GAA delegation left Geordie’s.

When the GAA delegation reported back to the organization’s membership, the reaction was summed up by a member who said: “If he thinks the worst gays and lesbians can do to him is march around on a futile picket line in front of his bar, we’ll have to show him how wrong he is! We won’t be laughingstocks any more!”

Geordie had apparently assumed that GAA just picketed people they didn’t like. In fact, the GAA rarely picketed. Instead, they were known for their “zaps,” a kind of a direct action that was carefully planned and executed with military-like precision. The zap was a GAA invention, and they were very good at it (Jun 4, Jun 24, Oct 27).

At 10:45 p.m. on Thursday, July 28, the GAA conducted a three-prong zap on Geordie’s. The first contingent went in first. Their purpose was to get all of the bar’s employees all in one place. To do that, they rushed straight for the ax. Right on cue, the bouncer, bartenders, and Geordie’s owner rushed behind the bar to defend the ax. That’s when the second contingent came in. Armed with “bigot swatters” — fly swatters and toy tomahawks with labels neatly attached — they harangued the 35 or so customers until they left. A few of the more resistant customers, they physically shoved out of the bar. One group of customers complained that they hadn’t settled their tab. GAA members shouted, “It’s on the house!” The two contingents inside the bar was made up of around 65 GAA members, demanding the sign come down, but otherwise calmly occupying the bar. Meanwhile a third contingent of about 70 more activists arrived outside and they threw up a more traditionally loud picket, I guess as a present to the bar owner.

Seven police cars arrived, sirens wailing and lights flashing. What they saw was this: a very large picket outside, bar employees inside behind the bar, gay patrons who weren’t being served, and a bar owner furiously demanding police arrest everyone in sight. A dozen police officers, surrounded by more than a hundred gay protesters, must have had quite a few flashbacks to another dicey situation with gay bar patrons seven years earlier. Police refused to make any arrests and reminded the bar owner that he could diffuse the situation quite easily on his own. Defeated, the owner took the sign down. The GAA pressed him to promise it would never go back up. He promised, and the GAA erupted in celebration:

The 65 triumphant GAA invaders left the bar and held an emotional victory rally with the 70 gays and lesbians who had been picketing and leafleting outside, as dozens of cops and many hundreds of other people looked on. Chanting, “If it goes up, we’ll be back!” as a parting shot, the jubilant gays and lesbians then dispersed among whoops of victory and yelps of conquest. Their delirious hooting and hollering echoed up and down the canyon of Third Avenue.

A headline in the next issue of New York magazine proclaimed, “Militant Gays Aren’t Kidding Around Anymore,” and wrote: “In the old days, police raided gay bars. Last week, it was a group of whistle-blowing, militant gay activists who raided a straight singles bar.” The ax never went back up, but the adverse publicity kept customers away and Geordie’s went broke soon after.

There are no comments for this post.

Leave A Comment

All comments reflect the opinions of commenters only. They are not necessarily those of anyone associated with Box Turtle Bulletin. Comments are subject to our Comments Policy.

(Required, never shared)

PLEASE NOTE: All comments are subject to our Comments Policy.


Latest Posts

The Things You Learn from the Internet

"The Intel On This Wasn't 100 Percent"

From Fake News To Real Bullets: This Is The New Normal

NC Gov McCrory Throws In The Towel

Colorado Store Manager Verbally Attacks "Faggot That Voted For Hillary" In Front of 4-Year-Old Son

Associated Press Updates "Alt-Right" Usage Guide

A Challenge for Blue Bubble Democrats

Baptist Churches in Dallas, Austin Expelled Over LGBT-Affirming Stance

Featured Reports

What Are Little Boys Made Of?

In this original BTB Investigation, we unveil the tragic story of Kirk Murphy, a four-year-old boy who was treated for “cross-gender disturbance” in 1970 by a young grad student by the name of George Rekers. This story is a stark reminder that there are severe and damaging consequences when therapists try to ensure that boys will be boys.

Slouching Towards Kampala: Uganda’s Deadly Embrace of Hate

When we first reported on three American anti-gay activists traveling to Kampala for a three-day conference, we had no idea that it would be the first report of a long string of events leading to a proposal to institute the death penalty for LGBT people. But that is exactly what happened. In this report, we review our collection of more than 500 posts to tell the story of one nation’s embrace of hatred toward gay people. This report will be updated continuously as events continue to unfold. Check here for the latest updates.

Paul Cameron’s World

In 2005, the Southern Poverty Law Center wrote that “[Paul] Cameron’s ‘science’ echoes Nazi Germany.” What the SPLC didn”t know was Cameron doesn’t just “echo” Nazi Germany. He quoted extensively from one of the Final Solution’s architects. This puts his fascination with quarantines, mandatory tattoos, and extermination being a “plausible idea” in a whole new and deeply disturbing light.

From the Inside: Focus on the Family’s “Love Won Out”

On February 10, I attended an all-day “Love Won Out” ex-gay conference in Phoenix, put on by Focus on the Family and Exodus International. In this series of reports, I talk about what I learned there: the people who go to these conferences, the things that they hear, and what this all means for them, their families and for the rest of us.

Prologue: Why I Went To “Love Won Out”
Part 1: What’s Love Got To Do With It?
Part 2: Parents Struggle With “No Exceptions”
Part 3: A Whole New Dialect
Part 4: It Depends On How The Meaning of the Word "Change" Changes
Part 5: A Candid Explanation For "Change"

The Heterosexual Agenda: Exposing The Myths

At last, the truth can now be told.

Using the same research methods employed by most anti-gay political pressure groups, we examine the statistics and the case studies that dispel many of the myths about heterosexuality. Download your copy today!

And don‘t miss our companion report, How To Write An Anti-Gay Tract In Fifteen Easy Steps.

Testing The Premise: Are Gays A Threat To Our Children?

Anti-gay activists often charge that gay men and women pose a threat to children. In this report, we explore the supposed connection between homosexuality and child sexual abuse, the conclusions reached by the most knowledgeable professionals in the field, and how anti-gay activists continue to ignore their findings. This has tremendous consequences, not just for gay men and women, but more importantly for the safety of all our children.

Straight From The Source: What the “Dutch Study” Really Says About Gay Couples

Anti-gay activists often cite the “Dutch Study” to claim that gay unions last only about 1½ years and that the these men have an average of eight additional partners per year outside of their steady relationship. In this report, we will take you step by step into the study to see whether the claims are true.

The FRC’s Briefs Are Showing

Tony Perkins’ Family Research Council submitted an Amicus Brief to the Maryland Court of Appeals as that court prepared to consider the issue of gay marriage. We examine just one small section of that brief to reveal the junk science and fraudulent claims of the Family “Research” Council.

Daniel Fetty Doesn’t Count

Daniel FettyThe FBI’s annual Hate Crime Statistics aren’t as complete as they ought to be, and their report for 2004 was no exception. In fact, their most recent report has quite a few glaring holes. Holes big enough for Daniel Fetty to fall through.